Special to West Valley Preps
It was a similar game when No. 11 Cactus lost to No. 6 Buckeye (19-4) 48-45 back in December, but the Cobras were determined to change the outcome in the first round of the 4A girls basketball playoffs.
They did, upsetting the Hawks 55-48.
Cactus each Justin Shaver said this game was nice because when you see the rankings it can either motivate you or make you feel like you are not good enough.
“But now we know with this win we are as good as anyone,” he said.
Cactus began to pull away in the first quarter after senior Kirsten Shinske hit a big three and was fouled by Jasmine Gonzalez. The next three possessions resulted in points for Cactus and Buckeye turned the ball over with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
Cactus was dominating Buckeye on the boards with big rebounds from Atlantis Jiles and the Cobras’ defense held the Hawks scoreless for the final four minutes of the first quarter.
Buckeye began to gain some momentum in the second quarter, largely due to regaining control of the boards.
“That’s something we struggled with the last time we played them and that was an emphasis for us,” Coach Shaver said. “They are really aggressive and not only do they come after the rebounds, but even after you have it they come try to take it from you. So it was about boxing out and being in position and staying strong and making a good smart pass to get the ball cleared. So that was a focus this week and it’s something that we did really well.”
At the end of the first half, Cactus led 33-24. Shinske said she felt like her team came out ready to dominate in the first half.
“We really came together and when the momentum changed we weren’t giving up no matter what,” she said.
Cactus started the third quarter with three turnovers and the Buckeye defense continued to trap the ball as it crossed midcourt, making it more difficult for the Cobras to get anything going on offense. Buckeye tied the game at 33 with 4:58 left in the third and changed the game.
Shinske hit another big three over Taylor Gilbert of Buckeye, tying the game at 36. Gilbert worked her way to the foul line before making two and pulling ahead 41-40.
Shinske, Ashley Revans, Jahleza Clark and Myla Lee scored for Cactus, giving them the advantage. Buckeye’s difference-maker Janaya Berry fouled out with less than four minutes left in the game and Cactus made their move.
“The last close game we played was Moon Valley and we lost by one and that experience kind of had us a little more prepared and really helped our team turn a corner,” Shaver said.
Buckeye head coach Regina Early said her team was prepared and worked through game situations and drills. She said her team understood not to take anyone for granted and to leave it all on the court and play the game like it’s the last time you get to play.
With the win, Cactus advances to the quarterfinals where they will travel to No. 3 Coconino High School on Friday at 6:30 p.m.